Monday, July 28, 2008

Exit lines

I've sung the praises of Adrian McKinty's Dead I Well May Be, noting among other things that its ending screamed sequel!!! but nonetheless worked beautifully. I wrote that I had finished the novel with a strong expectation of what the protagonist might get up to in later books, but that this was perfectly consistent with what McKinty had had him doing throughout the novel.

This put me in mind of a cinematic sequel-screamer from 1977 that did feel like a setup. This movie ended with some froggy-voiced dude shot off into space and, as I left the theater, unimpressed, I rolled my eyes and said to my friend: "Sequel!" The movie was Star Wars, which goes to show I know a sequel-screamer when I see it.

More recently, I read an interesting offhand comparison between the endings of 1960s comedies such as The Italian Job and their remakes. The 1969 version left the thieves teetering on a precipice, the outcome of their heist in doubt. The 2003 remake transferred the action to the United States and turned the story into an orgy of greed and wish fulfillment: Everyone gets what he or she wants, with no hard choices about whether to go after the gold if it might mean sending the thieves over the cliff.

And now, gentle readers, I invite you to join me and turn your minds to last things. What endings of books or movies screamed sequel!!! to you? Did the endings work? More generally, tell me about your favorite endings or ones you liked less well.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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23 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

"You were only supposed to blow the bladdy doors off."

I dont know if you're aware of this Peter, but The Italian Job and Get Carter are iconic, almost holy films in the UK and their sub-par remakes nearly unhinged the trans-Atlantic alliance.

You know what movie could do with a sequel? Rocky. I'd really like to know what happened to that loveable boxer who came so close to triumph against Apollo Creed. I dont get to the cinema very much, but I'm surprised they havent made a sequel, perhaps showing us his training regimen through the Philly streets and up art museum steps or boxing meat in a slaughterhouse. That would be terrific. Come on Hollywood give the fans what they want!

thanks for the nod,

Adrian...

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was wondering how the hell Stallone was going to bring off the latest Rambo. I thought, what is he going to do, lead his fellow senior-citizen veterans in a revolt against the disgraceful medical care at Walter Reed?

I learned something about The Italian Job's status when I did some Web searches to verify the dates of the movies. I found that the movie had been voted something like the seventeenth-best British movie ever and that the line you quoted had been voted the top British movie one-liner of all time.

I remember being impressed by prominence of computers in the movie but, at the risk of rending asunder the ties you cite (as well as those between Canada and the U.K.), I wasn't all the crazy about it. I found the ending contrived, though the ethical/moral comparison of the two movies that I cited in this post has forced me to reconsider that opinion. I liked Get Carter better, and I have no desire to see its remake. I had not known that was an iconic movie. I guess I never realized how huge a star Michael Caine was over there.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

Two days ago I read Pierre Magnan's The Murdered House in one sitting and it is still on my mind. A masterpiece, I think. The tale works its way through its final twists in the most satisfying way, but then, in the penultimate paragraph, an enigma, something to dumbfound, something you can only try to unriddle for yourself. This is not a book you would expect to have a sequel, but it does, I'm happy to say, though it is not a crime novel. Beyond the Grave tells more about the central character in The Murdered House and follows the stories of the other characters over the next fifty years, beginning at the very moment the main narrative of the first novel concludes, and that comes as a bit of a surprise as well. It's as if you never left. Just wonderful stuff, especially if you feel like spending some time in Provence.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

A little while back I read Paul Auster's "Travels in the Scriptorium". The central conflict is never resolved, nor is the reality of the situation explained. It was still a great book, but I'd like some sort of conclusion to the whole thing.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, I shall have to think about this matter carefully, to try to decide what makes an ending feel right, and what makes it feel like a set-up.

Pierre Magnan has written crime novels, hasn't he? I've seen him mentioned in discussions of crime fiction. Maybe crime readers just like his stuff.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

The open textured ending is trendy rubbish. Stories don't begin and end at definitive places they tell us. Sure they do. Birth and death, that's pretty definitive, mate. For too long writers living in Brooklyn Heights (this isnt a dig at Auster, I dont know where he lives) have passed off these unfinished books and said "well I'm sorry life doesn't end in simple bows and ribbons." I think they'll find that their life ends pretty much as simply as everyone else's actually. And don't get me started on the Sopranos. They co-opted that poor eejit too (unless there's going to be a movie, then it was genius.)

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

CS, did the unresolved ending make sense in context of what had gone before?

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

Re set-ups, Peter, I should have made it clearer that the paragraph I referred to at the end of The Murdered House is a matter quite separate from the plot of the book, which is fully resolved. There is in the sequel a certain sense of mystery, but this has to do with character, it's not a crime novel, and he had no intention of writing a sequel at the time of writing The Murdered House.

I guess I didn't even make it clear that The Murdered House is a crime novel -- it was nominated for the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger (now Award) in 1999/2000. Of his twenty-odd books, some non-fiction but mostly novels, the other crime fiction works are Innocence, The Messengers of Death, and Death in the Truffle Wood, the latter two featuring Commissaire Laviolette, and the last enthusiastically received at Euro Crime. I have that one waiting for me. Magnan is 86, hugely popular in Europe, with significant awards, but only came to light in English a decade ago.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian:

Even if life does not begin and end at definitive places, one might tell such theorists, books do.

On a possibly related subject, I have heard a creative reply to the accusation that the series, with a series protagonist, is somehow a lower form of fiction. In fact, this clever reply suggested, a series that traces a character's life is a akin to the old epic form that a traces a hero's life, or a significant portion of it, from beginning to end.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, I know Magnan has straddled boundaries between crime and the supernatural, a straddling to which I am a bit more open than I might have been before I read Fred vargas.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

You need have no qualms about the four Magnan titles I identified as crime fiction, Peter -- no confusion with the supernatural in them at all.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. Vargas does not write supernatural stories, of course, but she does explore how belief in the supernatural works itself out in characters' lives. She takes it seriously, on other words, even if it does not drive her stories.

But I shall keep Magnan in mind.

July 28, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

You know what needs a sequel? Empire Strikes Back itself. I didnt believe that crap with the teddy bears for a minute, where's the real film?

Ciao

July 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, are those teddy bears the cute little squeaking furry creatures? What were they called again? Not wookies, because Harrison Ford's sidekick was a wookie. Wikis? Squeakies? Cookies? Weegees?

Call me an old fart, but no story or even cycle of stories can attain epic or mythic status if it has marketing tie-ins with toy manufacturers to produce action figures.

July 29, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Ewoks! I spent an entire day looking for their toy village one Christmas. I was dating a woman with a five-year-old at the time, and I had more time to look than she did. I did eventually find the blasted thing, but I chased all over the damned island doing it.

July 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ewoks, that's right. Hmm, an island quest for a fabulous creature -- sounds mythic to me.

July 29, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

The Ewoks - what a horrible creation. I was rooting for the Empire at that point, actually and at the risk of sounding like a Kevin Smith character, I was rooting for any non monarchist solution. Lord Vader and the Emperor versus Princess Leia and the Jedi Knights? Isnt there any kind of secular, democractic alternative?

July 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I saw Clerks and, except for the clumsily shot street-hockey scene, all I can say is that there are worse things to sound like than a Kevin Smith character.

You are not the first to bring Kevin Smith and Star Wars together. Someone made a truly funny animated short a few years ago that put the two main guys from Clerks on a Star Wars-style ship in Star Wars-style costume and let them do their stream-of-consciousness conversational thing. It's worth a look if you can find it.

I saw the first three Star Wars movies once each. I remember thinking that the teddy bears were cute enough, but what in the name of the lord were they doing in this movie?

I think the next installtion of the Star Wars epic is to be called Star Wars VII: The Revenge of the Jeffersonian Deists.

July 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, given your yearning for a secular, democratic alternative to James Earl Jones' voice and Carrie Fisher's hairdo, I wondered which epics have offered something like a secular, democratic alternative. The Icelandic sagas, maybe, where everyone goes around killing each other, but only after due discussion, negotiation, and debate.

July 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.
Yay for the Republic of Heaven!

Marco

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Is that its last line? It's a hell of a good last line. It makes me want to start the book from the end.

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well,I was answering more to the "secular,democratic alternative" to all Star-Wars or Lord of the Rings crypto-aristocracy.

Then again the conclusion of "The Amber Spyglass" which is the final book in the trilogy,is:

"And then what?... Build what?"
"The Republic of Heaven," said Lyra.

And yes,a fitting end it is.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I ought to slap myself upside the head for not recognizing the allusion to the previous comments' mutterings about anti-democratic tendencies in fantasy. Sounds like Philip Pullman answers those objections, which makes me want to read his books.

I notice, too, that his characters talk of building the Republic of Heaven, and not of its merely being at hand. Perhaps they are commendably realistic.

July 31, 2008  

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